By Patience Loum,
The West African Power Pool (WAPP) with support from the World Bank held a high-level regional forum on 11th October 2022 unveiling a Solar Park Project which will help increase the volume of energy available to the Gambia.
WAPP is a specialized agency of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) created in 1999 at the 22nd Summit of the ECOWAS conference of Heads of States and Governments to promote and develop power generation and transmission infrastructures as well as to coordinate power exchange among ECOWAS member states.
This high-level meeting brought together representatives of the Ministries in charge of energy and the Managing Directors of the National Electricity companies of the Gambia River Basin Development Organization OMVG member countries organised locally by the Minister of Petroleum and Energy of the Gambia and regionally by the WAPP secretariat.
In his statement, WAPP Secretary General Siengui A Ki explained that the growing demand for electricity in ECOWAS countries, the decision has been made by the countries to establish a Regional Electricity Market which is expected to start soon thus contributing towards achieving regional integration.
He added that the project has been identified in the ECOWAS Master Plan for the Development of Regional Power Generation and Transmission Infrastructure (2019-2033) approved in December 2018 by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
As part of the Utility Scale Renewal Energy Projects in the Ecowas master plan, a 150 MWp solar PV plant with a large-scale Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) has been identified to be developed in the Gambia with a “plug and play” concept.
WAPP Secretary General Ki revealed that the “Plug and Play” concept is a proven approach to mitigating development risks for potential independent power producers (IPPs) and this encourages them to offer competitive prices for project implementation.
“To do this, host countries must play an important role in identifying sites based on grid capacity, solar irradiance, the possibility of securing land, grid connection facilities and the availability of site access infrastructure.”
Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Hon Abdoulie Jobe also spoke of the importance of energy towards the Gambia’s development ambitions. “Energy being a vital pillar for economic development, it has been identified by ECOWAS Commission as one of the sectors to promote economic integration of the union by integrating the electricity networks of the member states,” said Hon Jobe.
He enthused that “the power pool initiative of ECOWAS Commission has been a laudable initiative, which has been producing dividends since the establishment of the West African Power Pool”.
He notes that the project helps to diversify “our power generation sources at a time when the prices of fossil fuels are very unpredictable. The project also helps in mitigating the impact of climate change and meeting our international environmental commitments, despite our countries being far less polluters.”
The Minister believes that the project came at a time when the prices of solar are significantly declining, making them very competitive compared to other technologies.
“It is therefore hoped the project is being developed and will be implemented competitively so that the energy generated from the project could be affordable to the regional power utilities and our larger community. The project model and all the associated agreements should be well structured to keep the project very efficient.”
He extended thanks to the World Bank Group and the WAPP for providing the resources to identify and coordinate the development of the project and also hope that the two institutions will continue tirelessly to support the project until its realization.